Wednesday, June 02, 2010

More Stupid

When I was a kid in Milwaukee, I had to walk to school, all uphill, both ways, even during blizzards when drifts reached to the second story of our home. And there were no vaccines for measles, mumps, pertussis, chicken pox, and polio.

The first statement, of course, is not true (the drifts never got that high). The second statement, however, is true. I had the measles, mumps, whooping cough, and a mild case of chicken pox. My younger sister had pretty much the same experience with childhood diseases, but her case of chicken pox was much more serious and she could have died. The little girl on the corner had polio, and even though she convalesced at home, none of our parents would let us visit her for fear we would contract that awful disease.

Thankfully, effective vaccines have since been developed for each, and we've come very close to wiping out those child-killing diseases, at least in this country. That, however, may not always be the case. For some inexplicable reason (at least to me), normally rational and caring parents have bought into the unscientific rumor that vaccinations can cause autism in children. They refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated.

Pamela Nguyen, a resident physician in pediatrics at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital, up against such a parent, and she reflects on just what that means in a spirited opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times. Dr. Nguyen has never actually seen a case of the measles, but she notes that at least one case has been reported in Los Angeles County. And there are other reported cases in the state.

Measles is a serious public health threat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease remains the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in children. In 2007, there were 197,000 measles deaths worldwide, 90% of them in children younger than 5. That is nearly 450 deaths every day.

A study published in the April issue of Pediatrics examined a 2008 measles outbreak in San Diego. The index case was a 7-year-old unvaccinated child who was exposed to the virus while abroad. This case resulted in 839 exposed persons, 11 actual cases (all in unvaccinated children) and the hospitalization of an infant too young to be vaccinated. In total, the outbreak cost the public more than $175,000, which would have covered the costs of measles vaccinations for almost 180,000 children. ...

The parents in the San Diego outbreak also didn't vaccinate their children because they were afraid of autism. But exhaustive study has found no link between autism and vaccines. It's puzzling why well-educated, upper- and middle-income parents worry so much about a connection that doesn't exist while they ignore the very real risks of not vaccinating. Vaccine refusal is creating large reservoirs of susceptibility, primarily in private and charter schools that are generally free from state restrictions. I worry that we will soon see just how real that risk is. In addition to the case of measles, there also have been nine cases of mumps reported in L.A. County this year.
[Emphasis added]

It is indeed puzzling why parents would make such a decision. It is even more puzzling why the state's health authorities are allowing such decisions to be made so lightly and with no real basis. Am I suggesting that the state go all Nazi on such stupid parents? I guess I am. Most people don't have any objection to the state going all Nazi on drunk drivers, mainly because they recognize that the drunk driver is a menace to other people as well as to him/herself. I think the same issue is in play here, as does Dr. Nguyen.

By choosing not to vaccinate, parents put not only their children but other peoples' children in harm's way. Immuno-compromised children, infants and pregnant women cannot be vaccinated, so they are put at increased risk when those who can be vaccinated are not.

Exactly so.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please explain the fact that the Amish, who do not permit their children to be vaccinated, have NO incidences of autism in their community.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Probably for the same reason that there are no incidences of autism in my extended family, all of whom have vaccinated: genetics, lack of any damaged brain wiring, etc.

Not a good argument.

3:58 AM  

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